Just to catch up a bit, I’ve been reading a variety of new and old YA books lately and wanted to share.
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
“Jolly is seventeen. She can’t really spell. She doesn’t have much of a job. And she has two little kids from two different, absent fathers.
Jolly knows she can’t cope with Jilly and Jeremy all by herself. So she posts a notice on the school bulletin board: BABYSITTER NEEDED BAD. No one replies but Verna LaVaughn, who’s only fourteen. How much help can she be?
For a while, Jolly, Jilly, Jeremy, and LaVaughn are an extraordinary family. Then LaVaughn takes the first steps toward building her own future, and Jolly begins the longs low process of turning the lemons of her life into lemonade.”
I read this book, which was written in1993, keeping in mind that when it was written, I was very close in age to the main character, LaVaughn. I picked this up at the recommendation of another librarian who gave me the parenting advice that sometimes it’s better to act like you are the babysitter. The babysitter can sometimes have more fun, be more creative and teach the kids even more than their parents can. In this novel, LaVaughn was such a resourceful young teen, that she acted like the responsible parent to Jolly’s childish one. A hopeful story that would go far in teaching teens that teenage pregnancy is no joke and not the way MTV’s 16 and Pregnant portrays it.
“Tells, in their separate voices and at a space of fourteen years, of Emmy, whose baby has been stolen, and Sophie, a teenager who defies her nomadic, controlling mother by making friends with a neighbor boy and his elderly aunts.”
This story was beautifully written and seemed taken from recent news headlines. Poor, uneducated Emmy is the mother of a baby who is abducted when she runs inside for just a moment, leaving her child alone and unattended. She never fully recovers from this loss and spends her life searching for her baby. She is blamed by her husband and for a while, locked-up in a mental hospital. Sophie, is locked away and homeschooled and is always on the move because of her controlling mother. She finally reaches out to her neighbors and learns there is more to live than hiding and deception. Interwoven, their stories do eventually link up in this sad but hopeful tale.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
“Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient, has accepted her terminal diagnosis until a chance meeting with a boy at cancer support group forces her to reexamine her perspective on love, loss, and life.”
Oh, John Green, you did it again. You made me fall in love with your characters as you allowed them to slowly break our hearts. A love story where the characters have terminal cancer means you better keep a tissue box nearby, but this was so much more than that. Hazel and Augustus are such lovely characters, so real and imperfectly perfect. You will spend time thinking about them when you are not reading their story. You will miss them when you are finished reading and you will remember them fondly. I don’t want to say too much, just pick this one up as soon as you can get your hands on a copy.
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
“After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.”
I am still reading this one and it scares the heck out of me because there really IS a supervolcano at Yellowstone and this could happen. Don’t believe me? Check it out here: http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/supervolcano/supervolcano.html . Actually, don’t read that unless you want nightmares. But so far, this book is gripping and realistic, drawing comparisons to the ever-popular Life As We Knew It series.
Stay With Me by Paul Griffin
“Fifteen-year-olds Mack, a high school drop-out but a genius with dogs, and Céce, who hopes to use her intelligence to avoid a life like her mother’s, meet and fall in love at the restaurant where they both work, but when Mack lands in prison he pushes Céce away and only a one-eared pit-bull can keep them together.”
Here’s a little plug: the author, Paul Griffin, is visiting Syosset Library on April 30 7-8:00PM to conduct a writing workshop for our teens. He’s been here in the past and gives a wonderful workshop and is just a really cool guy. And his books are awesome. I loved Stay With Me, and even though it has some very dark moments, it is ultimately a book about hope and redemption as well as love and friendship. If you are a dog lover, you need to read this (you might even learn some tips on how to train your dog!)
Let me now if you’ve read any of these books and what your thoughts were.
Teen Services Librarian